12 August 2010

Just Ducky

on trackWe were checking out next week's Leadville 100 route, scouting places to shoot great photos and still be able to train for our Pikes Peak ride later this month, when we came across a duck family crossing the road.

At first, I just wanted to snap a photo because Mama Duck was attempting to lead her babies along railroad tracks after crossing the rural highway, and the scene was cute. I grabbed my camera as Mama searched for a place her babies could get up and over the rails. However, I didn't get a shot of Mama with her babies because she ended up not waiting for half of them.

walk the plankWe may have made Mama nervous, which was not our intent. I tried to stay low and invisible, as I do whenever I stalk wildlife. I was using a very long lens and wasn't close enough for a great shot. Nevertheless, Mama flew the coup, leaving unattended babies behind.

Watching the babies run back and forth along the railroad, peeping wildly as they desperately searched for a way to reach Mama, made me want to cry.

I've read many accounts of humans assisting mama geese and ducks with difficult baby crossings. After a few minutes of frantic baby peeping, I decided human help was necessary and appropriate in this case. I slowly moved in closer, staying low, trying my best to imitate their cries, talking in a soothing voice, open hand outstretched so babies could, if they wanted, if they trusted, climb aboard.

Two of the young 'uns finally crossed the first rail with improv wingless flying technique. They called to the still stranded sibling and stayed close for a while, but as Mama's quacking faded, they panicked and crossed the second rail. The lone duckling looked me straight in the eye, ran straight toward me, froze about three inches out of reach of my outstretched hand, stared at me with tilted head, then waddled full speed in the opposite direction.

I remembered a silly show from back in the '70s or '80s. "Not the mama! Not the mama!" I definitely was not the mama. Talk about feeling incompetent!

ouchBaby ran all the way to the nearest road intersection, crossed the tracks on level road, then ran back toward where the siblings and Mama had disappeared. I could see from my 5'7" vantage point that the other two ducklings were swimming in a nearby pond, sans Mama and three more siblings who didn't have as much problem crossing the tracks. I decided to gently coax the lone baby toward the siblings who were quite a distance away and out of earshot.

I succeeded in reuniting the three lost babies but could not see Mama and the rest of her paddling. (Yes, that's really what you call a group of ducks. Brood or litter sounds so much better, doesn't it? A raft is a group of ducks on water, and a flock is a group of ducks in the air.) The Lizard convinced me Mama would return for the little ones if we left them alone. She had to be out on the water somewhere, protecting the rest of the raft. So we walked away, hoping for the best, fingers crossed, silent prayers uttered.

Thankfully, Mama duck and the other babies eventually returned, and the family swims together once again. As long as they stay in the pond and away from the train track and highway.
baby come back


  1. oooohh, great story and photos, THX :)

  2. Geez, I guess there's drama in every family! When I saw the first picture and realized they were on railroad tracks, I thought "Oh no!" So glad they all made it across and reunited.

    "Not the Momma" is one of our catch phrases around the house. I put it on gift tags for Hubby at Christmas time and it always makes us laugh. It was from that silly show Dinosaurs that was actually on in the early 90s and our kids watched it occasionally.

  3. We are indeed kindred spirits.

  4. Awww, those are some cute ducklings! Thank goodness they were okay!

  5. You have such a good heart! Love these shots and the story behind them. I once cried for ducks not having enough water in the winter, lol. Oh well, I worry about all the critters too.

  6. oh dear, what an adventure. Im happy everything turned out well in the end.
    Think I have to copy the part where you talk about all those different words used in different situations. Did not know half of them. :)


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